Stanford Graduate Students Voice Concern After Announcement of Increased Health Care Premium Costs

Stanford University’s Vaden Health Center has announced that its Dependent Health Insurance Plan (Dependent Plan) – that provides coverage for dependent spouses and children – would experience an increase in premium costs for the 2019-20 academic year.

The increase, which would be between 12 and 15 percent higher than the previous school year, depending on how many dependents a student has, would make an increase of approximately 80 percent.

Stanford graduate students have expressed criticisms of the increased costs intensify existing affordability and mental health challenges that the graduate students face, and also contribute to a less diverse campus.

“It’s unethical,” said Justine Modica, a fourth-year history Ph.D. student and a member of the Stanford Solidarity Network (SSN). “How is that okay for folks with families to be paying that for their kids, when their stipends aren’t going up at anywhere near the same rate?”

Several graduate students, including Modica and representatives of the Student Parent Alliance and representatives of SSN, recently met with vice provost for student affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for graduate education Patricia Gumport and graduate life office director Ken Hsu to voice their concerns about the increases.

Many students gave personal testimonials about health care and financial challenges. The graduate students who attended the meeting urged for a reversal of the increase in premium costs in addition to the creation of a long-term plan to fully subsidize health care coverage for children and spouses who are unable to receive coverage through their employer, according to The Stanford Daily.

According to the health center’s website, the increase in premium costs were created as a result of declining numbers of enrollees. Cardinal care, the Stanford-sponsored health insurance option for students, has approximately 8,000 enrollees, whereas the Dependent Plan has 389, according to data from the 2016-17 academic year, the most recent data available.

Under the Dependent Plan, there is no proof of intentional discrimination against graduate students with dependents as a result of potential higher risk. However, Cardinal Care has seen consistently smaller increases in premium costs than the Dependent Plan. For the upcoming school year, premiums under Cardinal care will increase by only 7.4 percent, whereas the Dependent Plan will increase between 1202 and 15.05 percent.

Brubaker-Cole and Gumport said they are currently working to soften the high costs of the Dependent Plan, stating that the university has acted on several recommendations made in a report from the Student Families Working Advisory Group, and referred to aids given by the university that have prevented additional increases in the plan’s costs.

“We continue to be concerned that the current dependent plan is not sustainable,” Brubaker-Cole and Gumport said in an email to The Stanford Daily. “We are looking for alternatives that are more affordable.”

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